One for sorrow, two for mirth,
Counting Rhyme (from The Folklore of Birds, by Laura C. Martin, 1993)
Three for a wedding, four for a birth,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret not to be told.
Eight for heaven, nine for hell,
And ten for the devil's own sel'.
In a tradition centuries old, Crow or Magpie augury has long been used as a way of foretelling the future. The number of crows, or originally magpies seen flying, was considered an important portent of future events. The oldest known poem relating to this practice, based on counting magpies, dates from the 1600's.
A murder of crows is the name given to a group of crows. So what is a murder of one? It could be referring to a couple of things, depending on the focus you give the words to this song. I imagine that it could be talking about the death of love, and fading away into nothing.
"..all your life, is such a shame, shame shame
all your love, is such a dream, dream dream...."
Alternatively, I imagine this title may be a metaphor for confusion. A solitary crow, flying as though a part of a murder, feeling as though there's more than one spirit inside, trying to make out the world through a multitude of eyes.
"...i walk along these hillsides
in the summer 'neath the sunshine
i am feathered by the moonlight
falling down on me..."
Maybe it's a bit of both. Whatever it's meaning, there's no denying that this is a song of incredible power. The words speak to me of such intense sadness and waste - but at the same time, speak of such a strong hope, and a need for things to be different. Change.
"I can remember being eight years old and having infinite possibilities. But life ends up being so much less that we thought it would be when we were kids..." - Adam Duritz
"...i've been watching you for hours
it's been years since we were born
we were perfect when we started
i've been wondering where we've gone..."
For me, A Murder of One has always been a song about growth. Realising life's realities, realising that the dreams of childhood are sometimes not realised - but that's doesn't have to be a curse, or an ending. And I find some irony in the poem recited. One for sorrow, two for joy.. In the midst of words that implore change, beg for you to take control of your life, is a poem written by people who thought that crows and magpies could influence the course it took. I guess A Murder of One is a song of contrasts, and many messages.
I also feel some connection between the themes of A Murder of One, and the album's opening track, Round Here. Round here explores themes on growing up, and discovering that childhood ideals don't always translate into the real, adult world. It's about facing realities, and realising that the life you find yourself in doesn't look so similar to the life you dreamt about. A Murder of One on the other hand, allows hope that while your life may not match your dreams, everyone has the ability to create change. It's never too late.
A Murder of One is the final song from Counting Crows debut album, August and Everything After, and a stunning way to finish an incredible album. I believe the only way to listen to this song, is to let it play through, into the silence at the end of the album, and let your mind drift. And think.
change, change, change...