David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 4: Tanya Donelly (Oh Me Of Little Faith)

April 30, 2020

On day 4 of my seemingly foolish notion to write about 365 artists represented by 365 songs, I hit my first real challenge in finding one song from an artist where I could easily choose 50 or 60 songs. I should have had that problem with Midnight Oil, but because my focus was on Lincoln's love of "Sometimes," I didn't have to sweat it.

However, Tanya Donelly is a different story.  Listening to a lot of her music the last couple of days, I have struggled knowing what to choose (and trust me, her band Belly will get its own entry when I am ready). Each song as it plays pulls me in through her sultry voice and evocative lyrics.

In the end, because I have a fascination with expressions of faith, ones that I might not share, I gravitated toward "Oh Me Of Little Faith" off of Donelly's Swan Song Series. The song starts, after a brief intro of some cool percussion and maybe even some banging on a toy piano, with a ghostly wail (probably from a synth) overlaying delicate guitar, throbbing bass and rumbling drum.  The wail disappears and Donelly's amazing voice comes in with a vision of an angel.

We need to fly/we're too far away to walk/

He said/as he brushed off his wings.

Meanwhile, Donelly admits "I am still afraid and I need to rest," a sentiment any listener can probably identify with. It is the first indication of her dematerializing faith. The chorus will quickly capture even more her wavering faith:

I am sure/I think I am sure/I am not sure/who you are

Should I remember/think I know/I don't remember/who you are

My long lost

And the line ends.  In a case of classic Mandela effect, every time I hear the song I am convinced she is going to say "long lost friend." It never happens. She never gives us the noun.  Is it her faith?  Then why isn't the title "Oh Me Of No Faith."  When she says in the second verse that she "missed what he meant," presumably her angel, I am sure (o.k. maybe I am not sure) that I have missed what she meant.  Most of her songs from "Gepetto" off the first Belly album to everything in her solo career have lines that I am never quite sure I get what they mean.

Ultimately as the song builds to its triumphant closing, the chorus lines "I am sure/I think I am sure/I am not sure" provide me the comfort that comes from knowledge: the more I think I know, the more I doubt. And that is how one gets through life with a healthy dose of little faith.  We're the sane ones. That's why I am fascinated by those with such strong faith: you scare the hell out of me.

"Oh Me Of Little Faith." Tanya Donelly. Swan Song Series. American Laundromat Records. 2016. Link here.

P.S. This was written and ready to be posted on May 1. Then I heard of a dear friend and former colleague who passed away this week from this damn Coronavirus. I don't feel nearly as brash with that last paragraph. I could use a little faith right now. Then I think of my now long lost friend and I stick to my guns.

Day 3: The Soul Children "Who Is She And What Is She To You."

Day 5: X "See How We Are."

See complete list here.