Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Are You Doing with What You've Got?

Back in the 1980s, Scotland-born singer-songwriter Eddi Reader was a British pop star with her band Fairground Attraction. Today, as a solo artist, her sound has matured: quiet acoustic arrangements and gentle harmonies put her lush voice front and center. The content of her songs has evolved as well. Especially moving are her wistful songs of love, longing and loss, and also her "message songs", as they're sometimes called, which invite us to think about such subjects as war and peace, the Earth and our place in it.

In the video below (from 2003), Reader joins with pianist Thomas Dolby and an unnamed guitarist to perform "What You Do With What You've Got," her rendering of a song composed by Si Kahn. It's a beautiful meditation on the theme of how we might use our talents and gifts to make a difference in the world. The lyrics have been provided for your convenience.

Notice that before Reader sings, she removes her shoes. The reason why is anybody's guess. In the world of my imaginings, she's preparing herself to do sacred work.

What she does with what she's got is holy indeed.


You must know someone like him -- he was tall and strong and lean
With a body like a greyhound and a mind so sharp and keen
But his heart just like a laurel grew twisted round itself
Till almost everything he did brought pain to someone else

It's not just what you're born with
It's what you choose to bear
It's not how big your share is
It's how much you can share
It's not the fights you dreamed of
It's those you really fought
It's not what you've been given
It's what you do with what you've got

What's the use of two strong legs if you only run away
And what's the use of the finest voice if you've nothing good to say
What's the use in strength and muscle if you only push and shove
And what's the use of two good ears if you can't hear those you love

Between those who use their neighbours and those who use the cane
Between those in constant power and those in constant pain
Between those who run to glory and those who cannot run
Tell me which ones are the cripples and which ones touch the sun

Which ones touch the sun...

Note: If for some reason you can't see the viewer above, click here to watch Reader's performance.

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