If the wheel is fixed
I would still take the chance.
If we're treading on thin ice
Then we might as well dance.


So begins a marvelous little song called Do It from his 1972 album, Third Down 110 To Go. This was his second product, after his self-titled album in 1970. I think this title has something to do with the way Canadians play football, and that would fit his biography.

Jesse Winchester was one of America's great losses due to draft evasion. He grew up in Memphis and was one of those who fled to Canada in order to avoid that VietNam vacation. I suspect that you've never heard of him. That is a shame, because this is some heart-wrenching stuff if you're in the right mood. I've been chastising users on this site recently for posting really bad poetry. If you want to know how simple it is to write good poetry, get your hands on some of this guy's work. There are not a lot of fancy words or complicated rhyming schemes; just simple words that happen to rhyme and just happen to tell you more than you can possibly stand without a spinal quiver.


Didn't He know what He was doin'
Putting eyes into my head?
If He didn't want me watching women
He'd a-left my eyeballs dead.


It's sacrilegious to say it, but I suppose the closest thing you use for comparison is Jimmy Buffett. However, whereas Mr. Buffet will go for the cheap laugh and the vague piratic metaphor far too often, Mr. Winchester has no alter-ego he is attempting to foist upon the consumer. This is take it as it comes, and it comes simple and bright.


So I play the fool
But I can't sit still.
Let me get this rock
To the top of this hill.


The first album in 1970 was produced by Robbie Robertson. He also played some guitar on that effort and Levon Helm played the drums on many of the cuts. The songs Winchester writes are about love, God, sin, fun and those other topics that good poets don't shy away from. As it should be, the poet sings his poems and, fortunately, the voice in this case is strong and versatile and quite pleasant.

There have been several albums after these first two, but I can't testify to the quality. I would assume it's worthy of a listen. Several folks have found his material worth recording. Joan Baez and Ian Matthews have both done versions of The Brand New Tennessee Waltz. Jimmy Buffett, Tom Rush and Ted Hawkins have all tried their hand at Biloxi. I could cite several other covers of his work, but here is the main point I'd like to make:

The next time you want to post a teen angst poem or write a suicidal Day Log here, run these lines through your head a couple of times:


It takes patience to walk
And spirit to run.
It don't take nothing to pity yourself,
But it's dangerous fun.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.