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Mike And The Mechanics – Paul Carrack – The Living Years – Cover

By September 9, 2022No Comments

This is one of those songs where all I can say is wow! Wow on so many levels.

Wow #1
Mike Rutherford (guitarist for Mike And The Mechanics and co-writer of this song, and for those of you that don’t know, also guitarist for the legendary band Genesis), along with songwriter B.A. Robertson, both lost their father’s that same year unexpectedly and collaborated to write the #1 single “The Living Years.”

I wanted to take a moment and actually start by publishing the lyrics but before I do, I want to talk about the direct inspiration and story behind the lyrics of the song.

Mike Rutherford’s father, Crawford Rutherford, unexpectedly died in October 1986 at age 80, while Mike was on tour with Genesis in Chicago. Two weeks later, Mike took the Concorde to England for the funeral and returned to America in time for the next show.

This funeral fly-by hit Mike really hard later on. He opens his 2014 autobiography The Living Years with this story. After lots of reflection, Mike realized that he was so wrapped up in his own career and life during this time that he was neglecting his loved ones, especially his Dad.
Something he deeply regrets to this day.

Crawford Rutherford was a captain in the Royal Navy, but didn’t discuss his time fighting in World War II and Korea. In the ’80s, he wrote his memoirs, but they were never published. When Mike discovered them after his death, he learned a great deal about what drove his dad to be such a “hard driving man who had little time for his family”. He felt regret over not understanding what his father went through and not spending more time with him. Not only that, Mike found himself following in the exact same footsteps (Cats In The Cradle Anyone?).
In Mike’s own words “You get two chances at a father and son relationship. One, from your father to you and how you respond to that relationship and the second, when you become a father and how you relate to your child and that relationship, and what you pass down from generation to generation. I had become the very thing I hated about my father…” (hence the lyric “every generation, blames the one before…”).

Now for the lyrics:
“The Living Years”

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defense

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts

So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different date
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in You may just be O.K.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

Wow #2
There are so many aspects of this song that are praiseworthy:
– the incredible prolific craftsmanship of the lyrics as I just mentioned,
– the super catchy memorable anthemic melodic chorus with a prescient powerful statement,
– the song’s fantastic production (even down to using a multigenerational choir reinforcing the lyric much like a Michelangelo painting).

And lastly Wow #3
Paul Carrack, the singer, is one of the most underrated singers ever to hit rock and pop music. Yes, he sang with the band Squeeze (Tempted by the Fruit of Another, Silent Running, Don’t Shed a Tear etc…), and yes, he had a brief stint singing for Roger Waters in Pink Floyd, but very few people know about this absolutely phenomenal vocalist that deserves legendary recognition.

So with all of that said, and with an intimidating humble heart, I decided to put my hat in the ring and take a stab at singing this incredibly epic piece.

I hope you enjoy it!

Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy, where the PROOF is in the SINGING!