Mary Chapin Carpenter: Her influence, her videos

I discovered Mary Chapin Carpenter and her music sometime after my mother passed in 1997.  If I remember correctly, a friend forwarded me one of her CDs, suspecting I might be in a position to appreciate her art.  That friend was absolutely right.

Unlike my head-banging preferences in my teen years and early 20s, and my hard-rock preferences later in adulthood, at this turning point, I was receptive to more thoughtful lyrics and music, that came from a different place: a place of gentleness, intelligence, sincerity and introspection.  Of self-respect, sadness and renewal.  Of how even the seemingly smallest, most insignificant things in life – a shirt – can mean so much.

No one exemplified these values at the time, to me, more than Mary. I immediately fell in love with the poignant (and often fun) nature of her music, and became enraptured in her ballads and stories.  And as I took my first big road trip after my mother passed – from Ft. Lauderdale to Charlottesville, VA (about which I’d only read, but it sounded like paradise to me, from Thomas Jefferson’s writings), to Washington, DC and back – I picked up more of her CDs along the way. The experience was transformative.

This picture, from the booklet inside her “Party Doll” CD, is of Mary and what appears to be a Lab or Golden Retriever cradled in her arms, and it also served to help inspire me. To look at them together makes it impossible to imagine them apart.  It’s clear that he/she knows that Mary’s world is a safe world, filled with love and tenderness and generosity, and is home, forever.

I know I thought of this picture on more than one occasion as I began my long search for my “perfect” first dog, as to the ultimate aspiration of my efforts: to earn and enjoy the love of a dog with whom I am really compatible.

As I describe in my book, I decided to move here to Charlottesville after 9/11 because it is the only place I’ve ever felt truly at home.  And as part of my renewal, my musical tastes began to change, as well – but no artist provided a better main “soundtrack” for my new life than Mary.

It wasn’t until I’d lived here for about a year that I discovered that Mary also lives in Charlottesville (well, nearby anyway). I remember how this discovery made complete cosmic sense to me: that her spirit, her art and this place are all a perfect match.  Over the last nine years I’ve run into her a few times at local shops, but my words got so jumbled I think she thought I was a nut (but hopefully, a lovable nut who just really admires her, and wanted to thank her).

Here are some of Mary’s songs that have had such a profound impact on my decision to move here, to hold out for my “perfect” first dog, and to allow my soul be renewed, through Shayna.  They’ve also helped inspire me to be the best “dad” to Shayna that I can be, to sustain myself through the very dark times that assaulted our blissful existence, and to dream, once again, of better things.

Learn more about Mary in this 24-minute video interview at Big Think.

“Why Walk When You Can Fly?”

Amen, Mary.


“In My Heaven”

Who wouldn’t want to go to the place she describes? Since 2012, this song has had stronger and stronger meaning for me. (Note: A slideshow produced by an unknown party accompanies this amazing song. My advice: close your eyes as you listen – the visuals are a distraction.)


“The Hard Way”

As Mary describes, she wrote this in a specific context, but it became popular for other reasons. In my case, it’s because I think that like others with severe trauma in their backgrounds, I’ve had to forge my own path to self-realization and acceptance, often against the advice of my supposed betters, and often leading to failure. What I’ve achieved has been gotten “the hard way.”


“I Take My Chances”

My favorite rallying cry for the dignified human spirit in a free society.


“The Moon and St. Christopher”


“The Long Way Home”

The really ironic part of my discovery of this song was the timing – just when I was giving very serious thought to the architecture of my book, the strange journey it’s been, and particularly, of the “Life Lessons” I’ve learned from being Shayna’s “dad.” Apparently Mary tapped into the exact same sense, the art of conscious living, that I only recently discovered, and work to apply every day – particularly in the context of Shayna.


“You Can’t Take Love For Granted”

This song (and particularly the last verse) hits home, given that as I describe in my book, out of fear and the scars of shame, when the first great love of my life was right in front of me, in the form of a colleague I met shortly after I got my big break in multimedia (1990), I waited too long to say anything. And when I finally did speak up, it was too late. Assuming that just because the miracle of love is there one day, that the opportunity to speak up and take a chance will be there the next day, and the one after that, is a mistake I will never make again.


“Passionate Kisses”


“Almost Home”

Such an amazing song… very much how I felt as I drove out of Ft. Lauderdale for the last time, in December 2001, heading for my new home in Charlottesville, VA:


“Down At The Twist & Shout”


“Come On Come On”


“This Shirt”

An incredibly lovely tribute to a piece of cloth; reminiscent to me of another tribute she paid to another entity that most people would never give a second thought to: “I Am A Town” (below).


“I Am A Town”

Gets me every time. How can you not love a woman who writes about the plight of a town, as if were a person, and without drifting into politics and conspiracy theories?


“He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”