The Last Carnival

Earlier this summer I attended the TeachRock workshop on the Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul’s “Teacher Appreciation Tour” in Malmö. The workshop was very inspirational and I promised myself that when I was back at work after the summer holiday I was going to check out the website some more and make use of the lesson plans in my own teaching (I teach English, Swedish and German).

The collection that caught my interest today was on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The lessons in this collection stimulate the development of social and emotional skills, including self-awareness and self-reflection, healthy decision making, self-care, navigating intense emotions, and cultivating good citizenship. These skills are all part of chapters one and two in the Swedish National Curriculum, which address fundamental values and tasks of the school that should permeate every subject that is taught. The essential question in the specific segment I opened was: “How does music help us remember people we are close to, or those we have lost?”

This section takes off in the song See You Again, which was written in memory of actor Paul Walker, who died in a car accident in November 2013 shortly after filming Furious 7. The song was written in response to a call from film producers at Universal Pictures and soundtrack editors at Atlantic Records for songs that would pay tribute to Walker’s life. The song would be played at the end of the film.

See You Again is used in this lesson to help the pupils to consider the emotional power of songs, and to explore ways music might help people think about loved ones. Working in groups, the pupils then search for other songs that have been written in memory of people and finally contemplate on how songs might remind them of their own personal friends and family.

I know from before that music is a powerful tool when teaching and I’ve used it a lot during the years. I’m quite excited to put this resource into practise and as a long time Springsteen fan I wanted to see if I could find any song by him equivalent to the suggested songs in the material.

The Last Carnival

Springsteen wrote The Last Carnival about the death of Danny Federici, organ player and original E Street Band member, who died on April 17 2008, having suffered for three years of Melanoma.

“It started out as way of making sense of his passing. He was a part of that sound of the boardwalk the band grew up with and that’s something that’s going to be missing now” (Springsteen, Observer Music Monthly January 2009)

Sun down, sun down. They’re taking all the tents down. Where have you gone my handsome Billy?

In “The Last Carnival,” Springsteen brings back the character Billy, from Wild Billy’s Circus Story (from the album The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle) making the song a sort of sequel. The song is metaphorical; the band is the circus and Springsteen and the band have to move on without their friend Billy, who is gone. In the end of the song Springsteen speaks directly from his heart and expresses his sorrow over what he’ll miss about his friend. Although the lyrics are about Danny it really resonates with any person who is missing.

The Last Carnival is solemn and moving. Springsteen’s acoustic guitar comes into focus and the vocals on the song are both emotional and strong.

Terry’s Song

Frank “Terry” Magovern passed away July 30, 2007. For 23 years Terry was the personal assistant and a treasured friend of Bruce Springsteen. Terry’s Song was written (and performed) by Bruce Springsteen only three days after Magoverns death and later released on his 2007 album Magic. The song is a hidden track, not listed on the album’s back cover, the disc itself, or anywhere in the booklet.

In the lyrics Springsteen is comparing famous people and monuments of the world to his longtime friend. The comparison is not meant to say his friend is more “important” than any of the various people and monuments he references. He’s using them to say his friend was irreplaceable and unlike the “objects” (for example: the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower) he can never be duplicated (because they broke the mold).

When they built you, brother, they turned dust into gold
When they built you, brother, they broke the mold

It’s a beautiful song with strikingly simple, direct lyrics that immortalise and honour a specific person but it also reminds us of the importance of love and friendship, the briefness of life and of people close to our hearts that are no longer with us.

You’re Missing

On the album The Rising, which was a response to 9/11, there are a number of songs dealing with the theme of loss, but also resilience and hope. The song You’re Missing speaks about the grief of a family losing their father/husband. The song is a beautiful elegy to an unknown, unnamed person who was lost to the attack and about all the small things you miss about a person that dies, the small things that really make a difference, the things that you don’t really notice before the person is gone.

Everything is everything. But you’re missing

I’m not really surprised that I discovered songs in Springsteen’s catalogue dealing with death and grief. The lyrics of his songs follow the course of life and that’s what make them (him) great.

The TeachRock work shop:

“Steven Van Zandt’s TeachRock project brings rich, multimedia educational materials to teachers and students everywhere–at no cost. The lesson plan collections and resources at help teachers engage students by connecting the history of popular music to classroom work across the disciplines. From social studies and language arts to geography, media studies, science, general music, and more: TeachRock has engaging and meaningful arts integration materials for every classroom.”

2 thoughts on “The Last Carnival

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  1. Beautiful post, Anna! I’ve been waiting for someone to tell us what the materials and lesson plans were like from that workshop; can’t wait to hear how it works for you in the classroom!

    Liked by 1 person

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