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This song was inspired by the great Soviet-Russian poet Osip Mandelstam. Like many of his fellow poets, he was very careful to share certain new poems only with his closest friends. That’s what he did with his famous “Ode to Stalin, who’s described therein as a belching executioner with grub-like fingers and a cockroach moustache. Within days of Osip’s reading the poem to a handful of trustworthy friends, he and and his wife, Nadezhda, heard a knock on their apartment door.

So, yes, this song’s about Osip Mandelstam, who later died in a gulag.

But it was written in April 2003, not long after another leader with a black-and-white view of the world proclaimed, “You’re either with us or against us.

It seems a common thread connects so many powerful men throughout history. . . .

Songs to listen to. . . .

Prairie Gold (from Some Kind of Sign)

The Fiddler (from Some Kind of Sign)

Just Around the Corner (unreleased)

Government Work (unreleased)

Somebody Else’s Alibi (from Just Where We Are)

You Can Get There from Here (from Just Where We Are)

Don’t You Worry ’bout Falling (from Just Where We Are)

Sunny Side of the Street (Pogues cover; SG General Store, 11-22-2008)

 

* Except for “Sunny Side of the Street,” all songs & recordings
© Nathanael Dresser

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