The Bright New Year

Surfing through 20 or 30 pages of New Year’s Eve songs on YouTube is a depressing experience. The go-to song, of course, is “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s based on a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It’s tremendous because it is a nice tune and it’s possible to sing it once a year for your whole life and have no clue as to what it means:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

The other important song for this holiday is “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” which was written by Frank Loesser. It gives a good hint of the theme underlying all the others: Angst, fear of being left out/lonely/inadequate/isolated/disconsolate/unhappy. It’s all set against a backdrop of forced gaiety and the inescapable reality that time is inexorably passing.

I think the fact that there are few great New Year’s Eve songs is very understandable: It really is a bummer of a holiday that people don’t really like. Everyone feels that everybody else is having a better time. The thought is that things aren’t going so well now and, by the way, it’s a year later and things aren’t likely to get much better.

Which brings us to Bert Jansch and the wistful “The Bright New Year.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find video of him playing it. It’s very short and succeeds, I believe, because it embraces the desolation of the New Year’s experience.

In any case, I wish everybody a happy and healthy New Year.

(Homepage Photo: Chris Barber)

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